James Douglas Muir Leno is an American comedian, writer, and television personality. He became the host of NBC‘s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno from 1992 to 2009 after years of stand-up comedy. In September 2009, he launched The Jay Leno Show, a primetime chat show that aired weeknights at 10:00 p.m. ET on NBC. Leno returned to presenting The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in March 2010 after it was cancelled in January 2010 due to a timeslot and host controversy. On February 6, 2014, he hosted the final episode of his second stint. He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame that same year. He has hosted Jay Leno’s Garage since 2014, as well as the You Bet Your Life relaunch in 2021.

Net Worth

Jay Leno’s net worth is estimated to be around $450 million in 2021. He also earns a salary of $15 million per year. In addition, Leno maintains a garage that houses his extensive collection of rare and historic automobiles. Leno had a career in stand-up comedy before becoming well-known as the presenter of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on NBC from 1992 to 2009. After leaving The Tonight Show, Leno hosted his own talk show for a year before returning to The Tonight Show for four more years before retiring permanently in 2014. He made $320 million before taxes while hosting The Tonight Show.

Life Journey

Angelo, his father, was an insurance salesman who was born in New York to Italian immigrants from Flumeri. Leno attended Andover High School in Andover, Massachusetts, where he grew up. He graduated from Emerson College with a bachelor’s degree in speech therapy and opened a comedy club in 1973. Patrick, his older brother, was a Vietnam War veteran who went on to become an attorney. On March 2, 1977, Leno made his first appearance on The Tonight Show, delivering a comic set. He initially appeared in the 1976 episode “J.J. in Trouble” of Good Times, and then in the pilot of Holmes & Yo-Yo the following year. Following an uncredited performance in the 1977 film Fun with Dick and Jane, he starred in American Hot Wax and Silver Bears in 1978. Almost Heaven (1978), “Going Nowhere” (1979) on One Day at a Time, Americathon (1979), Polyester (1981), “The Wild One” (1981) on Alice, and both “Feminine Mistake” (1979) and “Do the Carmine” (1983) on Laverne & Shirley are among his other film and television appearances from that time period. His only starring film appearance was in Pat Morita’s 1989 direct-to-video Collision Course. He also made several appearances on David Letterman’s Late Show. In 1983 and 1984, he also appeared for three weeks on the short-lived NBC game show Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour.

Family and Personal life

Since 1980, Leno has been married to Mavis Leno, with whom he has no children. Leno’s mother died in 1993, during his first season as host of The Tonight Show, at the age of 82, and his father died the following year at the age of 84. Patrick Leno, Leno’s older brother and a Vietnam veteran and Yale Law School graduate, died of cancer in 2002 at the age of 62. Leno is recognised for his protruding jaw, also known as mandibular prognathism. He claims in his book Leading with My Chin that he was aware of surgery that may reset his mandible, but he didn’t want to go through a protracted recovery time with his jaws wired shut. Leno suffers from dyslexia. He states that he just requires four or five hours of sleep per night. He does not drink alcohol, use cigarettes, or gamble. He spends a lot of his leisure time going to car shows and working in his own garage. Leno has stated that he does not spend any of the money he earns from The Tonight Show and instead relies on his stand-up routines to support himself. In 2005, he reportedly made $32 million. He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by Emerson College in 2014, where he also gave the commencement speech.

The Tonight Show 

Starting in 1986, Leno was a regular replacement host on The Tonight Show for Johnny Carson. In 1992, he replaced Carson as host amid a feud with David Letterman, who had been hosting Late Night with David Letterman since 1982 (after The Tonight Show) and was widely expected to succeed Carson, including Carson himself. The story of this tumultuous transformation was turned into a book and a film. Throughout his time on the Tonight Show, Leno continued to do stand-up comedy. He was offered a contract extension by NBC in 1988. Leno extended his contract with NBC in 2004 to keep him as host of The Tonight Show through 2009. Later in 2004, Conan O’Brien struck a deal with NBC to take over as host of the show in 2009, replacing Leno.

During the Writers Guild of America strike in 2007–08, Leno was accused of breaking WGA rules by scripting his own Tonight Show monologue. The WGA denied such discussions. NBC and Leno claimed there were private meetings with the WGA where a secret agreement was struck authorising this. In 2009, Leno addressed questions in front of the Writers Guild of America, West trial committee, although he was not included on the WGAW’s list of strikebreakers. 

Witness at Michael Jackson Trial

Leno was one of a handful celebrities who testified as defense witnesses during Michael Jackson’s child abuse trial in 2005. In his testimony on a phone conversation with the accuser, Leno stated that he was not asked for money and that no coaching was evident—but that the calls were strange and rehearsed.

As a result, Leno was first forbidden from making jokes about Jackson or the case, which had been a staple of The Tonight Show’s opening monologue. However, he and his show’s writers took advantage of a legal loophole by having Leno briefly leave the stage as stand-in comedians performed jokes about the trial.

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